Stroke showed me new world

Stroke showed me new world

Raghavendra Rajkumar, actor and producer, on the unusual ways family bonds work

I am returning to the big screen after 14 long years with ‘Ammana Mane’, which, in a lot of ways, reflects some of the happenings in my own life.

When I suffered a stroke six years back, I thought my life was over. The left side of my body wasn’t functioning, my face was sagging and I couldn’t sing. I thought everything was over for me.  

When director Nikhil Manjoo brought the script of ‘Ammana Mane’ to me, I wondered why he chose me to play the lead when there were so many other actors, including my brothers. 

I called the director and asked him if he wasn’t aware of my health condition. I also raised doubts about whether I would be able to complete the film. I told him that I didn’t want the film to get affected or be stalled because of me. The director’s response left me stunned. He said that he wanted the same old Raghavendra Rajkumar who came forward to calm a restless crowd when Dr Rajkumar was kidnapped, the same man who came forward when his brother was admitted to hospital and the son who took care of his mother when she was diagnosed with cancer. This despite my own illness.

 The director said that I didn’t have to act and that I just had to be myself because the story had similarities to many of the incidents in my life. He said that he didn’t think anybody else would be able to do justice to this character as much as I could. This gave me confidence and I told the director that I was going to come on board as a blank sheet of paper and that he was at liberty to fill in whatever he wanted.  

 I look at stroke as a blessing because it opened my eyes to a new world. I was struck with it when I was at the gym and that day happened to be my 25th wedding anniversary. I was rushed to the hospital by Dr Rekha. Had she not saved my life in that golden hour. I would have been history and this film would never have happened. 

 I owe my speedy recovery not to medicines but to my family and friends who stood by me like a rock. My brother Shivarajkumar, his wife Geetha and my wife Mangala accompanied me for treatment to Singapore. The treatment costs were high and we had to rent an apartment. It was expensive. So, in order to cut down on the expenses, my wife and sister-in-law Geetha decided to do all the work by themselves. They cooked, washed clothes, took me to the hospital and even took me around Singapore. My brother would personally fetch groceries, insisting that I must eat only home-cooked food.  They took care of me like a child and I believe that their care is what has given me a second lease of life. 

Renewed hope
This film has given me new hope. When I was down with stroke, my routine was all about taking medicines, checking my pressure and sitting through physiotherapy sessions. I began to look forward to going to work when I began shooting for ‘Ammana Mane’. I had my wife seeing me off to work and my children and brothers coming to the shooting locations, just like old times. I was also aware that the entire crew would be waiting for me to start work. 

Raghavendra Rajkumar